1st day of the 3rd ride, month 6 , 1262
I have been staying at the Baths of Sedna in Kingsport awaiting a sign from Sedna. The baths are quite luxurious and well-kept by a lay devotee of Sedna: Mistress Dagmer. She is a kind woman and her services do much to improve the health and lives of her patrons. She serves the Spring-mother well without the burden of her ‘gifts’. She is clearly more than a little envious of my gifts and my connection to our mutual patron. She would not understand that I could be similarly envious of her. All the same, I serve my Mistress gladly and by no means is my service superior to Dagmer’s.
I must have dozed off into a trance while bathing for I was granted a vision. In the vision I entered into a cavern, lit only by the faint light of luminescent moss. One corridor branching off from this cavern appeared to be much darker and to be emanating dread. Upon entering the corridor, the darkness fully engulfed me and the dread became almost palpable. First one pair of glowing red eyes appeared, then more pairs of glowing red eyes appeared, staring with an animal hunger. Then they pounce.
I never did see the creatures, since the image was replaced by two stills, following in succession. The first a banner depicting a mask with a bright sword behind, the second a minstrel with a knapsack.
The sequence of the cave I interpret as a warning. But do I need to face this challenge, or do I need to avoid it? The first still image mystifies me, but the second one is familiar: the sign of the ‘Careless Wanderer’, the famous Inn on Quayhill. It is reputed that any adventurer worth his or her salt will ultimately find his or her way to The Careless Wanderer, as sure as water rolls downhill. Sedna clearly wants me to go there today. Dagmer helped me get ready and I departed for The Careless Wanderer.
I will not lie, I was anxious upon entering the Careless Wanderer, half expecting it to become a black corridor filled with red-eyed horrors. Luckily, the place proved much more benign than that.
That being said, at the bar a man with an unnerving talent at annoyance was bickering with the moon-elf barmaid. A cluster of boisterous louts was playing dice on one end of the common room. At the center of attention appeared to be a remarkably tall man with slightly reddish hair.
The annoying man prevented me from concentrating properly and to get a good sense of what was going on exactly.
After the annoying man ceased accosting the barmaid I made my way over to her and asked her how she was doing. Slightly taken aback by this sudden act of kindness, Lauryn and I engaged in pleasant small-talk. After a while I inquired about the tall man and she informed me that it was Lord Marcus Sheridan who appeared to be recruiting men and women for an unknown job that was to pay 20 Golden Crowns. Apparently one had to defeat the Lord at a game of chance called Daemon-dice to be considered for the job. He seemed to put his fate in the hands of Lady Luck, who is his patron. At the same time, he was using the game to get a measure of his potential applicants.
I reckoned that I had come here for a reason so I was required to try. I refused to wager coin, playing for honor instead. I surrendered to Lady Luck for the occasion to determine whether or not I was fated to join Lord Markus’ endeavor, whatever it might be. As it turned out, Lady Luck saw no reason to bring me on board.
I spent much of the afternoon at the Careless Wanderer, having an early diner (chowder). When I started eating the dwarf Durham of the Wanderer suggested a fine wine (Erveluce) and I engaged him in pleasant conversation. Ultimately I enquired what he knew about House Sheridan and he revealed that the Sheridans were a wealthy merchant-family that were raised into nobility fairly recently. They were the heroes of the Battle of the Lyrian Gulf in 1217, during which their private vessels provided crucial assistance in destroying the pirate fleet of Admiral Dapperfang which threatened all of the Lyrian coast. In particular, it seemed that the mage known as Benton the Purple, a personal friend of the Sheridans, provided the deadliest assistance.
House Sheridan’s Sigil, Durham revealed, is a mask with bright blade behind it. The House is represented by three brothers: Johnathan, Marcus and a middle brother whose name seems to escape everyone. John appears to represent the more serious business side of the family, while Marcus is known to be a more adventurous type.
Having learnt the sigil, it became clear that I was supposed to take the job this Lord Marcus was offering. I had no choice but to sit down for another round of the confounded dice-game. This time I put my faith in Sedna and informed Lord Marcus that I would take the job regardless of the outcome, but that if I were to lose at the dice, I would accept no payment. The wager pleasantly surprised Lord Marcus and he agreed to the terms. His rolls produced five consecutive values, which I gathered to be an impressive feat. My rolls produced four of the same value and a spare, which I learned to be a better score. I won. After my victory Lord Marcus declared himself satisfied and ceased the game and pushed the gaming pieces aside. I pocketed one of the winning dice as a memento.
After all the excitement Lord Marcus ordered a sumptuous meal and asked four of the winning individuals to join him. These included, aside from myself, a tall northern woman from the Bay of Seals called Astrid. She has an impressively powerful physique and wears some kind of blue face-paint. She appears to be a sailor and is not very talkative. But when she speaks it is direct, to the point, and best heeded. She seems to spend words like Golden Crowns, sparingly but with purpose. I am glad this one is with us.
Another one, named Luca, appears to be a somewhat weedy and unhealthy looking man from Northshire. He appears to be the scholarly type, perhaps from the Academy, or rather a wash-out by the looks of it. He appears curious but impatient with others. This one will probably need watching over, if only to protect him from himself.
The fourth one is called James and is a native of Kingsport and cares for his appearance. He is clad in fine leathers and displays a variety of sharp looking knives and daggers. He appears to be going for a dangerous look, which for all I know he may well be. Or perhaps he is just compensating for his small and wiry frame. His features may well be due to his mixed elven heritage. His tongue is well-trained and eager to throw barbs, perhaps venomous ones as well. Or perhaps he was simply too deep into the cups Lord Marcus was so generously providing. This one might well need watching.
During the meal Lord Marcus filled us in on the job. We were to report to the Sheridan Estate at Lynnecombe-upon-Lyn (a few leagues outside of Kingsport) at noon tomorrow to investigate a well. The well is no longer being replenished by the aqueduct that feeds it. A team of dwarven engineers sent to investigate has gone missing, as well as a troop of house guards that were sent to look for the engineers. We are to go down there as the third team and resolve whatever is wrong down the well. It sounds a lot more straightforward than it probably will be, especially if the dream of darkness is any way linked to these subterranean features of the Sheridan Estate.
Lord Marcus related that there were no unsettling discoveries downstream from the stream that feeds the aqueduct. Nor are there indications that the water of the well or the stream are in any way corrupted.
We agreed upon meeting two hours after dawn at the Careless Wanderer after which we would take a river-barge upstream to Lynnecombe-upon-Lyn. Astrid would arrange for the barge.
Since Lord Marcus was leaving, and I was content that I had fulfilled my duties to Sedna faithfully I bid the others goodnight and retired to the Baths of Sedna. Where I informed Mistress Dagmer of my departure.
I donated a Golden Crown when she wasn’t looking.
2nd day, 3rd ride, month 6, 1262
The next day I enjoyed one last fine bath before setting out. I had a simple breakfast at the Careless Wanderer with my new companions. These included a remarkably upbeat and handsome young half-elf called Emrys. This one appears to need attention as much as regular people need water to live. He claims to be sorcerer and a trickster. He looks as though he had sprung from the sign of the Careless Wanderer. I forgot to see if the image remained.
Sedna has allowed me to drift into the orbit if some remarkable people indeed.
After breakfast Astrid and I went down to the pier to meet our boatman: Aram. He and his two children own and operate a simple barge that will service us well enough. Naturally I offered my services while a guest on their barge. Aram was quite happy to take me along, as I have come to expect.
Astrid and I made ourselves useful on the boat wherever we might during the voyage. Luca used the time to read in one of his books. James spent his time in leisure, possibly sleeping off the cups. Emrys seemed to enjoy the voyage as a carefree child would. We arrived at the hamlet Lynnecombe-upon-Lyn with time to spare.
After bidding farewell to Aram and his children we walked up to the Sheridan Estate. Despite the size of the estate, it is remarkably well concealed in the wilderness that surrounds it. Eventually we came upon a simple gate through the outer wall and entered into a well-kept and luxurious garden courtyard. We easily spotted Captain Hallis Mollen to whom we were supposed to report. She greeted us in a businesslike tone and told us to wait to be called in to meet the Lords. I made use of the time to subject the well to a preliminary investigation, but found nothing suspicious. I also engaged a gardener in conversation. I found out that the water was being rationed somewhat but that the quality of the water was perfectly fine.
When we were called in we were led through a labyrinth of luxurious rooms and corridors up to a study. I noticed a large stain glass window as we went up a flight of stairs. It depicted the running through of a woman by a sword. A similar image was depicted on a painting in the study where we were meeting Lord Marcus and his brother John. Intrigued I inspected the painting and found that is was named ‘Hagsbane’. The woman being run through on the painting was of a monstrous sort, so quite likely a hag, while the shining blade running her through was her bane.
In the study we were awaited by Lord Marcus and his brother John. On the balcony outside, overlooking the gardened courtyard, was another man in a wheeled chair, flanked by a white haired man in purple robes. All of them are remarkably tall.
Lord John was curt and direct and from his tone it was clear that this one is used to being listened to and obeyed. He reiterated what was expected of us and told us that there was no reason for delay. We inquired if Captain Mn would be available to us for any required supplies, which she would be. I noticed a sword on the wall behind Lord John and politely inquired if that was in fact Hagsbane, which he confirmed. Not eager to overstay our welcome we retired to the courtyard to start our mission.
In the courtyard, while the others bothered with the supplies, I sought to speak with Luca. I inquired what he knew about the mask symbol that appeared so regularly throughout the mansion. He was also unfamiliar with it. I told him that I suspect that the bright blade in the Sheridan Sigil is in fact Hagsbane. He was not eager to continue our conversation, since the Lords might well be able to overhear our discussion.
When all preparations were made we descended into the depths of the well. Luca, Emrys, and James were lowered in a bucket connected to a boom. I tried to climb down a rope. Sedna mocked my small vanity and I fell into her embrace much sooner than I intended.
I collected my things and made my way to the entrance of the aqueduct with the others. There I stripped out of my wet clothes and used Sedna’s gifts to dry them out, then I refitted my adventuring attire so as to be ready to proceed with our mission and cleanse this well.